Oceania Choir by Performance Samples
Oceania Choir is a very easy-to-use choir library. All you need to do is to load it into Kontakt and play. The rest is done by developer.
by Alex Arsov, July 2017
This Kontakt-based library is living proof of how sound libraries have become better and better over the last few years. Offering ultra-realistic sound has become the standard. It isn’t easy to distinguish new libraries from live, real instruments, and so there comes a time when developers should offer something more – better programming or even a more user-friendly playing experience. Jasper Blunk is not a newcomer, as he has produced some custom-made libraries in the past that were used in many well-known Hollywood movies. I didn’t know anything about Performance Samples, and Oceania Choir came out of nowhere, offering a real “no programming” composing experience for recreating those dramatic sounding Latin sentences, compiled from various Latin sounding syllables, ideal for epic and dramatic cinematic trailers and movie scores.
There are a few similar libraries on the market, but this one uniquely joins legato and staccato patches into one good sounding patch where legato or staccato will be automatically recognized as you play, without the need to switch between them with key-switches. I’m not sure how this was done, I presume the vowel in the middle of a syllable is looped automatically until the key is released. I’m just guessing, so Jasper, correct me if I’m wrong. One way or another, it works perfectly. Every new note brings another carefully chosen syllable – a syllable that can also be chosen through a key-switch. But I didn’t find that necessary, as those ten syllables really fit perfectly together, making the whole Latin sounding phrase sound very natural. (I presume it sounds quite illogical to any Latin speaking university professor, but thankfully, they are not our target listeners.)
I heard people complaining on some forums that offering just ten syllables can make this library sound repetitive, but the truth is that you rarely choose much more than ten syllables in other similar libraries. Not to mention that I haven’t heard any score till now using those Latin phrases for a long period of time during the composition. They are always used for some dramatic peaks lasting maximally 30 seconds, and I didn’t get a repetitive feeling while playing with Oceania. Usually you don’t need much to notice if some virtual instrument sounds repetitive or not, so at least to my ears this one passes the test.
There is only a short manual on the Performance Samples site, and honestly, I would be grateful for a regular PDF file with this library. Thankfully though, there are a few video tutorials showing in more detail how to find your way through the various options.
In The Pack
The whole library took a bit more than 2 GB of disk space with four Choir patches along with one octave doubling multi patch. This one loads Male and Female main patches that work perfectly together bringing to life all those Latin sounding syllables. Along with those two we also get a Man Shouts patch that has four groups of various shouts ranked over four different octaves. Octave goes from quiet up to the very loud shouts. Man Raisers is the fourth patch bringing exactly what is suggested in its name.
All four patches use a common set of controllers. We have an option to choose between two basic different microphone positions, Close or Far. You can also set any of those microphone positions to mono or stereo, along with setting a levels and even an option to select different outputs for every microphone position. The general interface is quite interesting, looking so minimalistic and almost old fashioned, but still offering most of the things you need.
Male and Female choirs offer some additional controllers, like a small window where we can change CC value for Dynamic (being set to Mod-wheel as default). There is also a Flatten Dynamic button for taming the volume differences between low and high notes, setting them to a similar level, as it usually happens that low notes are sung at a lower level than high ones.
Then we get another small window for setting Key-switch Root note, quite useful if you don’t use a big keyboard. There is also a drop-down menu for controlling if syllables should end with or without an “S”. I found that the Force S option can come in handy for some accent short notes to make more dramatic sounding breaks or any other non standard parts. Along with Force-S and Force non-S options are also Manual Velocity or Manual Sus Pedal options. The first one will add “S” at high velocities while the second one will add “S” syllables using the sustain pedal. Inside this drop-down menu we can also find Random, Suggested 1 and 2 options. Suggested 1 comes as default and works great in many cases.
At the bottom of the main graphical interface is another drop down menu with 8vb, 8va and Normal positions. It actually changes the position of a patch on a keyboard putting the whole choir range octave upper or lower. I presume this could come in handy when combining Male and Female choirs, choosing the octave differences between both patches without changing octave through the MIDI pitch option from the track info settings on the MIDI track inside your DAW.
With the pitch-wheel we can control release times, making staccato notes closer to staccatissimo by pulling the wheel down. Also, by holding any key-switch note we can play this syllable over and over.
As previously stated, the GUI looks quite simple and old fashioned, but it offers quite a lot through a few functions. Dear Jasper, congrats on your clever programming and excellent use of standard keyboard controllers. As mentioned, it would help to have a proper manual, not being an Indiana Jones and good at finding some of those functions, and also hiring a good art designer can make a big difference.
This is a very dramatic, in-your-face Choir library, but after all, almost no one is looking for gently singing Latin choirs nowadays, at least not in the cinematic genre – so this comes as a bonus. The main sound is full, wide and very natural and realistic.
So far, this is the only Latin syllable based choir that I know of offering such an easy-to-use playing experience. Actually, all controllers in the main general interface are for additional options as there is no need to set up anything to play it from scratch. Legato, staccato, no matter the articulation, you can play it like a normal synthesizer and not a sample library – all notes will sounds natural, no matter the length. The choir contain 48 vocalists, 24 male and 24 female. In most other similar libraries it is time consuming to set all those syllables in ranks or to set key-switches for different articulations. Thankfully, this is not the case here. As a bonus, the main choir has a very wide dynamic range, controlled through the mod-wheel, allowing us to achieve very dramatic parts with significant differences between quiet and loud parts. To tell the truth, I needed a good amount of time to discover why the whole library sounded so quiet, eventually figuring out that the default mod-wheel position is set very low, making the whole library sound quieter than it really is. Just move the mod-wheel to the mid position and everything will sound right.
So, if you are a media cinematic composer, this is definitely the one that you should try.
More info at Performance Samples site: http://performancesamples.com/oceania/
Full Kontakt required. Oceania Choir comes in at quite a typical price for such types of niche instrument – $264 USD. Check out the video files that are available on the Performance Samples webpage and decide for yourself.